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New Member Spotlight: Paula Martinac

By Mari Christie
January 10, 2023

What would you like readers to know about you?

I write award-winning historical fiction with a queer and feminist twist. My characters—overlooked Americans of the 19th and 20th centuries—seek fulfillment and adventure through work, love, and community connection. The settings of my seven novels range from the theater world of New York City to a sleepy college town in Virginia to a North Carolina cotton mill village. I’m a native of Pittsburgh and now a resident of Charlotte, where I teach in the creative writing program at UNC Charlotte and lead workshops at Charlotte Center for the Literary Arts.

Can you tell us what you’ve written?

My most recent novel is Dear Miss Cushman (Bywater Books, 2021), which takes place in Manhattan in the 1850s. Other historical novels include Testimony (1960 timeframe); Clio Rising (early 1980s timeframe), Gold Medalist, Northeast Region, 2020 Independent Publisher Book Awards; and The Ada Decades (timeframe: 1947-2015), a finalist for the 2018 Ferro-Grumley Award in LGBTQ Fiction. My debut novel, Out of Time, about a woman who finds a photo scrapbook from the 1920s, won a Lambda Literary Award and is still in print as an e-book. My two non-historical novels are out of print.

Did you choose historical fiction or did it choose you?

I’d say it chose me. I grew up as a history buff, thanks to my dad, who read history books for fun and planned family trips to historic sites like Gettysburg. At the same time, I was a kid writer, creating my first stories when I was in grade school. The two passions eventually converged in historical fiction writing.

Can you share three books on your night table right now?

I read a lot of traditional mysteries because I’m currently writing one. So I’m reading my way through Louise Penny’s Armand Gamache mystery series, and I’m at volume 10, The Long Way Home. I’m also reading Ashley Weaver’s The Key to Deceit, the second in her series set in London at the start of WWII, and Fanny Newcomb and the Irish Channel Ripper, a historical mystery set in Gilded Age New Orleans, by Paper Lantern Writer Ana Brazil.

What was the inspiration for your most recent book?

The spark for my recent novel, Dear Miss Cushman, was a question that has intrigued me for a long time. The historical record shows that women loved other women before lesbian identity even had a name—for example, “Gentleman Jack” or American actress Charlotte Cushman (1816-1876), a superstar in her time. I wondered, what were their lives like when they were young, when they were first coming to know themselves? When I read that Charlotte Cushman had adoring young female fans, some of them aspiring actresses, my novel’s protagonist, Georgie Cartwright, was born.

Are there recurring themes in your writing?

My novels always look at the everyday working lives of women and queer people—how they navigated the working world at times when women’s career choices were limited, and queer people had to be closeted. I’m also interested in exploring the communities and networks they created to survive in unfriendly social and political environments.

Have you always written fiction?

Yes, from the age of seven! My second-grade teacher gave us an assignment to write a story, and from that point on I was off and running. Over the years my creative work branched out to include plays, screenplays, and essays.

Paula Martinac is the author of seven novels – Dear Miss Cushman (2021); Testimony (2021); Clio Rising (2019), Gold Medal Winner, Northeast Region, Independent Publishers Book Awards 2020; The Ada Decades (2017), finalist for the Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBTQ Fiction; the Lambda Literary Award-winning Out of Time (1990; 2012 e-book); the Lammy-nominated Home Movies (1993); and Chicken (1997; 2001 reprint). Paula’s short stories appeared in The Raleigh Review, Minerva Rising, and Main Street Rag, among many others. She teaches creative writing to undergraduates at University of North Carolina at Charlotte and at Charlotte Center for the Literary Arts. Sign up for her newsletter (no spam!) at paulamartinac.com.

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Mari Christie
Written by Mari Christie

Mari Anne Christie writes second chances for scarred souls. Her book, Blind Tribute, is a multi-award winner in American historical fiction, and she writes historical romance as Mariana Gabrielle. She lives in Denver, Colorado with her two cats.

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